ANXIETY NOSTALGIA AND MISTRUST

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16 ANXIETY, NOSTALGIA, AND MISTRUST

Part II. The Economic Climate

America heads into the 2016 election amid a climate of waning optimism about its economic

health, the state of its communities, and the fairness of the economic system. Americans see

the causes of this malaise as multi-faceted, and they continue to favor populist economic policies,

such as an increase in the minimum wage and paid sick and parental leave in the workplace.

A Gloomy Economic Outlook Continues

Is America Still in a Recession?

More than seven in ten (72%) Americans believe that the country is still in a recession, while

roughly one-quarter (27%) believe the economic recession is over. Americans’ views about the

economic recession have remained steady over the last few years, with an identical percentage

(72%) of Americans saying the country was still in a recession in 2014, and 76% saying the country

was still in a recession in 2012.

There are important divisions among white Americans by social class. Nearly eight in ten (78%)

white working-class Americans say America is still in a recession, while significantly fewer (62%)

white college-educated Americans say the same.

Who’s to Blame? Causes of Current Economic Problems

While Americans blame many things for America’s current economic problems, they are most

united in pointing the finger at business corporations. More than eight in ten (86%) Americans

say that corporations moving American jobs overseas is somewhat or very responsible for the

present economic troubles facing the U.S., up 12 percentage points from 74% in 2012. Nearly

eight in ten (77%) Americans say that corporations refusing to pay workers a fair wage is at least

somewhat responsible for the current economic problems, and nearly three-quarters (73%) of the

public mention China’s unfair trade practices.

Roughly seven in ten (69%) Americans say burdensome government regulations are at least

somewhat responsible for the country’s economic problems, up slightly from 65% in 2012. Substantially

fewer (54%) Americans—although still a majority—say that illegal immigrants who are

taking Americans jobs are at least somewhat responsible for our current economic problems; a

modest increase from 49% in 2012.

There is bipartisan agreement that outsourcing jobs and China’s unfair trade practices are responsible

for America’s economic problems, but that’s where partisan agreement ends. Democrats

(88%) are more likely than independents (75%) and Republicans (67%) to say that the lack of fair

wages paid by corporations is at least somewhat responsible for current economic problems.

Conversely, Republicans (88%) are more likely than independents (68%) and Democrats (57%)

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